Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Politics of Europe
The politics of Europe deals with the continually evolving politics within the continent. It is a topic far more detailed than other continents due to a number of factors including the long history of nation states in the region as well as the modern day trend towards increased political unity amongst the European states.
Modern European politics is dominated by the European Union, particularly since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc of Communist states. The end of the Cold War has resulted in the expansion of the EU eastward so that today, 25 countries in Europe are members of the EU and are represented in the European Parliament.
Modern political climate
Several issues dominate modern European politics.
Despite vastly improved relations between Russia and the Western European states since the end of the cold war, recently tensions have risen over the spread of 'Western' organisations, particuarly the EU and NATO, eastwards into former USSR states.
Most European states have either joined, or stated their ambition to join, the European Union. This has led to governements overhauling corrupt and overly-beauracratic systems in order to bring themselves in line with membership criteria. This in turn has led to improved relations between former enemies, such as Greece and Turkey.
European states are members of a large number of international organisations, mainly economical, although several are political, or both. The main political unions are detailed below.
The European Union or EU is a supranational union of 25 European states. It has many activities, the most important being a common single market, consisting of a customs union, a single currency (adopted by 12 out of 25 member states), a Common Agricultural Policy and a Common Fisheries Policy. The European Union also has various initiatives to co-ordinate activities of the member states.
The EU, considered as a unit, has the largest economy in the world, with a 2002 GDP of 9.613·10¹² euro. The EU economy is expected to grow further over the next decade as more former communist countries join the union. There is also a trend of moving towards increased cooperation in terms of common defence and foreign policy.
The union has evolved over time from a primarily economic union to an increasingly political one. This trend is highlighted by the increasing number of policy areas that fall within EU competence: political power has tended to shift upwards from the Member States to the EU.
Commonwealth of Independent States
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is a confederation consisting of 12 of the 15 states of the former Soviet Union, (the exceptions being the three Baltic states). Although the CIS has few supranational powers, it is more than a purely symbolic organization and possesses coordinating powers in the realm of trade, finance, lawmaking and security. The most significant issue for the CIS is the establishment of a full-fledged free trade zone / economic union between the member states, to be launched in 2005. It has also promoted cooperation on democratisation and cross-border crime prevention.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is a military alliance of mainly European states, plus the United States of America and Canada. The organisation was founded as a collective security measure following World War Two.
This provision was intended so that if the Soviet Union launched an attack against the European allies of the United States, it would be treated as if it was an attack on the United States itself, which had the biggest military and could thus provide the most significant retaliation. However the feared Soviet invasion of Europe never came. Instead, the provision was invoked for the first time in the treaty's history on 12 September 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks on the United States the day before.
Belgiums biggest party, the Flemish Interest wants Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, to become independent. Other Flemish parties plead for more regional autonomy.
The eastern Moldovan region of Transnistria has declared independence from Moldova, and wants to join with Ukraine. Despite having no control over the region, the Moldovan government refuses to recognise this claim.
Several of Russia's regions have independence movements, mostly in the state's north caucasus border. The most notable of these is Chechnya, which has well supported guerilla groups involved in open conflict with the Russian authorities.
To the west of Russia lies the enclave of Kaliningrad oblast, (formerly known as Prussia). This enclave is separated from the main Russian state by EU member states, which has led to an increased call for autonomy. However, ethnic-German groups call for complete independence.
Serbia and Montenegro
The Serbian autonomous community of Kosovo, which has a majority ethnic-Albanian population, overwhelmingly desires to leave Serbia and have union with Albania. The province is currently governed by the United Nations, though remains part of Serbia under law.
Within Spain there are independence movements in some of the autonomous regions, notably the regions of Catalonia and Basque country. These are mostly peaceful but some, such as ETA use violent means.
The East of the country is majority ethnic-Russian, and there are calls from some groups for the area to leave Ukraine and join Russia. This is particuarly the case since the pro-western Victor Yuschenko became president.
Within the United Kingdom there are political parties in each of the three Great British nations calling for independence from the union. In Northern Ireland there are parties calling for the country to leave the UK and be reunified with the Republic of Ireland.
Politics by country
Foreign relations by country
Foreign relations of:
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